Crested Gecko Shedding – The Complete Guide
If this is your first time acquiring a crested gecko, you have much to learn about the reptile. This includes environmental requirements, dietary needs, the gecko’s behavior and temperament, susceptibility to parasites and disease, etc.
Today, though, we will discuss a unique feature of reptile anatomy – the shedding process. Crested geckos shed, but how often, how does the process unfold, and what problems can arise along the way? Let’s look into it.
Why do Crested Geckos Shed?
The shedding is part of the growth process; contrary to what one may think, it is not a reptile-specific behavior. All animals shed, although the process is different. This goes for humans as well. The difference is that, in most animals, the shedding process is never-ending, as the animal continually loses dead skin and hair cells throughout its life.
Humans, for instance, replace the outer layer of their skin completely within one year. This frequency will go down with time as the individual ages, and its metabolism drops accordingly.
By contrast, reptiles, like crested geckos, shed in one session as the old skin separates from the new one forming underneath. While the process itself appears wildly different compared to that in humans (which isn’t visible with the naked eye), the concept is the same – removing old skin cells and replacing them with newer ones. This process allows the gecko to grow.
The shedding frequency and duration differ based on the gecko itself, environmental parameters, genetics, diet, etc. So, let’s get into that!
How Often do Crested Geckos Shed?
Crested geckos showcase a varying shedding frequency, depending on their age. These general timeframes are standard for most geckos:
- Baby geckos – 0-2 months – Two, three times per week.
- Juvenile geckos – 3-12 months – One, two times per week.
- Adult gecko – Once every 2-4 weeks.
- Old geckos – Once every 4-5 weeks.
As you can see, the shedding frequency depends on the gecko’s age above all else. Baby geckos and juveniles grow faster due to a higher metabolism. They eat more often and shed more often than adults. As the gecko grows, its metabolism slows down gradually, so the gecko doesn’t need to shed as often.
As a general rule, the gecko is considered an adult between 12-18 months and 3-4 years of age. Then it enters the older-adult phase, which lasts until its death. The gecko’s shedding frequency will drop visibly past the 4-year mark, from which point on, the gecko may only shed once every 4-5 weeks.
Signs of Shedding in Crested Geckos
The gecko will display a variety of foretelling signs when the shedding time has come. These include:
- Lethargy – This can make for a worrying symptom because geckos usually exhibit lethargic states when sick or struggling with a health issue or injury. But they can also become lethargic before and during shedding due to them preserving their energy for the metamorphosing process to come. There’s nothing to worry about, as your gecko will return to normal once the shedding is complete.
- Lack of appetite – Geckos stop feeding approximately 24-48 hours before the actual shedding begins. This timeframe may differ, depending on each case. They also won’t eat during the shedding process and will revert back to their normal feeding habits once the process ends. Many geckos lose weight during shedding, especially if the process lasts for 24 hours or more, which it typically doesn’t.
- Change in color – The gecko’s coloring will change as the shedding time closes in. The reptile’s color will now appear duller due to the outer layer separating from the newer one.
- Sticking issues – The gecko may no longer be able to climb or stick to hard surfaces, which is why all geckos usually shed at the ground level. If they do happen to shed at an elevation, they won’t move from that spot until the shedding ends. They lose their stickiness because of the outer skin layer separating from their toe pads and preventing the setae (the sticky hairs responsible for the gecko’s electromagnetic grip) from working.
These signs can seem alarming initially, as you’re still unfamiliar with your gecko’s shedding behavior. But once you get a shedding calendar, you’ll expect them as your gecko enters its shedding phase.
As a matter of fact, I advise keeping a calendar or a journal of your gecko’s shedding. This allows you to record your reptile’s growth rate, which speaks volumes about its health and overall development.
Crested Gecko Shedding Problems
The standard shedding problem is incomplete shedding. This is typically called dysecdysis and refers to incomplete or abnormal shedding, usually leading to an array of other health issues. In most cases, the gecko will showcase stuck skin patches around the mouth, eyes, toes, and tail, but they can also be present at joints and other areas of the body.
These are extremely hazardous, as they can lead to localized infections and even tissue necrosis. The latter usually happens around the toes or tail, as the stuck skin cuts the circulation of blood in the area. This can cause the tissues to die off, resulting in gangrene, a localized bacterial infection bound to destroy the limb, or cause septicemia and death.
The primary causes of dysecdysis include:
- Improper humidity and temperature – Environmental temperatures during shedding should be between 80, and 85 F. Humidity should stay between 80 and 90%. If these parameters aren’t met, the gecko may experience shedding difficulties.
- Nutritional deficiency – Calcium deficiency is often linked to incomplete shedding, as the older skin layer does not detach from the newer one properly. Calcium deficiency is also linked to MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease), which is an entirely different problem to consider.
- No abrasive surfaces – This is also a problem resulting from the gecko keeper’s lack of awareness and experience. Geckos use the environment around them when shedding. They will both use their claws to scrape the old skin off of their heads and rub against abrasive materials to cleanse the rest of the body. If they don’t have branches or any abrasive surface nearby, they won’t be able to shed properly.
Another noticeably shedding problem is the retained eye cap. This occurs due to the skin around the eyelids getting stuck, in which case the reptile may need your assistance.
Helping a Shedding Crested Gecko
If you notice your crested gecko showcasing difficulty shedding, consider lending it a helping hand.
Set up a temporary shedding sauna to help with that. We’re talking about setting up a small container with some wet paper towels and sphagnum moss for increased humidity. This should moisten your gecko’s skin and allow it to lose those last stubborn patches. You can gently rub the reptile’s body with a cotton swab to speed up the process.
Don’t be too rough on the rubbing, as you can injure your gecko due to its more sensitive skin.
If that doesn’t work, consider applying a mineral oil on the problematic area and, again, using the cotton swab for a gentle rub. If the skin still doesn’t come off, speak to your vet. It’s better to have a pet professional look into it than risk causing more problems.
Most geckos shed without any problems, but that’s not always the case. However, the success of the shedding process depends largely on your input and how you assist the gecko along the way.
I hope today’s article can help you in this sense.